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"The reader will at once perceive that our doctrine of the permission of sin looks to the denial of its eternity resulting from an event in time. If it could begin only at the hazard of an eternal continuance, its admission must involve the eternal counsels. It could not then exist merely by divine sufferance. It would then be established and permanent." p. 151.
This is strange logic. How can sin exist temporarily any more than eternally, without involving the divine counsels? Why cannot sin exist eternally as well as temporarily by divine sufferance? If he means, as we suppose he does, that sin is not properly a part of God's plan, but simply incident to it through the wrong action which he permits but does not sanction, this may be as true of eternal as of temporary evil. He says afterwards that if moral evil be "limited and temporary,"
"We may then truly say of it that it inheres in no principle, and finds no sanction. It is neither God's choice nor his necessity. It is only an incident of his majestic forbearance. It lingers between life and death, being and not-being. It is transient because transitional, and pertaining to no system. It is not of the Creator, but of the creature; not of the Infinite, but of the finite; not of the Eternal, — how then can it attain to eternity?" p. 152.
How "inheres in no principle," and is " pertaining to no system," if it is limited and temporary? According to the author's own showing the elements of sin, as an actual phenomenon in God's moral government, axe, first, the free moral nature of finite beings; secondly, God's sufferance, but not sanction, of the abuse of this free nature in wrong doing. Does not this gift of such a nature inhere in a general principle, and pertain to a general system? And does not God's sufferance of its self-perversion inhere alike also in a general principle, and pertain alike to a general system of moral government, whether the evil suffered be temporary or eternal? As to sin's lingering " between life and death, being and not-being," that is assuming the very point at issue. But sin, he says, "is not of the eternal, how can it attain to eternity?" We ask in turn: if sin is not of the eternal, how can it attain to any being at all? But it has a being, and if he choose that its authors should live forever, why may not sin also endure forever?
The above is the substance of all that he has to urge against Whately's reasoning, and it is wholly inconclusive. The fallacy of a quantitative argument, where sound logic demanded a qualitative, remains.
3. Infinite guilt. We have never been willing to rest the doctrine of eternal punishment on any other foundation than the declarations of God's word. We think, nevertheless, that they who seek a philosophical explanation of it in the infinite demerit of sin, have the best of the argument, and have never yet been refuted. Our author's objection to the doctrine of infinite guilt is for substance this: that since man is a finite being, everything that pertains to his character must be finite also; that he can have neither infinite merit nor demerit, because he can neither love nor hate God infinitely. Here it is essential to the argument that we distinguish between the absolutely infinite, which admits neither increase nor decrease, and the relatively infinite, namely, what surpasses every finite limit. The absolutely infinite belongs to God alone, and admits of no comparison. Not so the relatively infinite. As in mathematics two quantities may be each infinite, in the sense of being unlimited, and yet the one may be twice as great as the other, so also may the demerit of all sin be infinite in the same sense, and yet the guilt of one man be twice as great as that of another, or as his own guilt at some past time. That the demerit of a finite being can be absolutely infinite, admitting of neither increase nor comparison, is of course absurd. But it may exceed every finite measure. This, which is all for which we contend, we understand the author himself to admit. He says:
"Duty is imperative. Its language is not that of mere counsel and advice, but of command. Man is not told simply that it is for his interest to do right, but he ought to do right His obligation is not to himself alone; if he has any right to forego his own pleasure or interest, he has no rightto omit a single duty; and no amount of enjoyment to be secured, or of j«un to be avoided, can give him such right. No possible consideration of expediency can make wrong right. No compromise is possible between duty and the neglect of it Moral law holds no parley, makes no bargain, forms no treaty stipulations, with him who refuses to obey. It sets no price on transgression. Obedience is better than sacrifice, however great. Though one should offer thousands of rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil, or ten thousand worlds, — of wealth or suffering, — the claim of duty would not bo done away. No finite measure of penance can abrogate it. Above all bartering calculation of reward and penalty, conscience sits infinitely supreme, as the voice of God himself, telling us we have no right to lose the one, or to incur the other. Still less have we right to complain, if an undutiful curiosity respecting the measure of penalty has not been gratified, and we find it, at the last, greater than we can bear? What if it should be infinite?" p. 91.
Very well said! This, he tells us, was for a time his " own theodocy." We wish he might return to it. But he has abandoned it, and that on the ground that " penalty is not satisfaction in kind; and it cannot be made so by being increased in degree, even infinitely. Penalty is sanction. Measured suffering is the mulct or fine which law imposes, which may also be warning and admonition ; but it is not of the nature of payment, so that it should be any better infinite than finite."1 And on the same page he says : "If man could be made into an infinite being, so that he could endure an infinite penalty in a moment of time, that would not restore him to innocence, or meet the demand of law. Infinite penalty is no more a satisfaction than finite penalty."
Now that penalty is a satisfaction in kind, no sane man holds. The law demands obedience; and nothing but obedience is obedience. But what does this truism prove? If the author held, with some, that all penalty is of the nature of discipline, having for its sole end the reformation of the offender, he might avail himself of this argument. But admitting, as he does, the doctrine of proper penalty, which does not reform but destroys, he can make no legitimate use of it. It is conceded on all hands that penalty does not satisfy the requirement of the divine law, which is obedienc e; then, according to his reasoning, why inflict any penalty, aside from reformatory discipline? The answer is obvious. Penalty does and must satisfy the divine justice. By it God
vindicates his own holy character and the sanctity of his law: thus putting, not the sinner, but himself and his everlasting government right in the eyes of his intelligent creatures. Now it is a dictate of reason that the penalty should bear a just proportion to the offence. If the latter cannot be measured by any finite amount of penal suffering (which the author admits to be true), our reason cannot see why such suffering may not be unlimited; that is (since it must be at each successive moment finite in degree) without end. He brings forward, indeed, a distinction between the absolute and the infinite. Duty, he affirms, is absolute, but not infinite.1 This, if we understand him aright, is no other than the distinction which we have already made between the absolutely and the relatively infinite. If duty is absolute, then, compared with any finite measure, it is infinite. Though we cannot comprehend or feel infinite guilt in the absolute sense of the term, we can know ourselves to be guilty beyond measure, and therefore deserving of penalty beyond measure.
Such, as it seems to us, is the argument from human reason and philosophy, although, as already remarked, we make nothing authoritative but the declarations of holy writ.
4. Natural immortality. The question of man's "natural immortality" the author discusses under the head of " the scriptural argument." But it is plainly extra-scriptural. There is a philosophy which, by ascribing everything to the immediate efficiency of God, virtually annihilates the distinction between the natural and the supernatural. By making everything supernatural, it makes everything natural. But. the commonly received philosophy recognizes a true distinction between the two. Natural immortality we suppose to be that which can be destroyed by none of the powers which God has put into nature, but only by the same divine power which gave it being. Now whatever be true of the soul in this respect, it is a matter which lies outside of the
revelations of Scripture. Snow and frost and ice come by the powers of nature, yet the Psalmist ascribes them immediately to God. "He giverh snow like wool; he scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes; he casteth forth his ice like morsels." 1 We can expect to find in the Bible only simple declarations concerning man's destiny, as coming from the will of God, and these we do find. Why the Scriptures insist so abundantly on the divine self-existence and immortality is manifest. God's being is the ground of all other being, and the belief of it underlies all religion. But man's destiny, as it respects the future world, though the knowledge of it is highly desirable, does not constitute the foundation of religion, and we know, as a matter of history, that, before the advent of our Lord, the inspired writers maintained a remarkable reserve respecting it. It is very surprising, therefore, that our author should put the doctrines of the divine existence and that of man's "natural immortality" (supposing it to be a truth) on an exact level, and say:
"If now these two are the cardinal truths of religion, we should expect them to receive similar treatment, in the Revelation of the divine character and of human destiny. If one of these doctrines is stated explicitly and categorically, wc should expect the same of the other. If one of them is not directly stated, but is explicitly assumed, with frequent mention or allusion, we should expect the same of the other," etc. p. 1G2.
Upon this head we will only add that all believers in revelation admit, that, as a matter of fact, the death of the body does not destroy the soul. From this consideration, as well as from others of a philosophical nature which wc omit, the natural immortality of the soul, in the sense above explained, is inferred with a high degree of probability. But on this point we wish to lay no stress. It is enough for us if we can ascertain the doctrine of Scripture as to the final destiny of the righteous and the wicked. We come next, therefore, to consider